Dark Matter

January 14, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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Professor Salik
Scientific Ethics Class
3rd Grade, 5th Period

Salik ambles to his desk, tapping the holographic display.

“Alright class settle down, settle down.”

He taps on his desk again and the display changes to show the galaxy. “As you’ve learned in your previous class space is relatively flat.”

“For years we puzzled over the problem of mass. There just isn’t enough to account for the structure”. The holographic image changes to reveal the dark gaps in space between matter.

Salik points at the dark regions. A paper airplane soars through display just missing his finger. He turns and gives a stern look over the class. “We only have three more ticks and class is over, so please behave.” Several children straighten up.

Salik looks into space for a moment, “where was I?” Finding his concentration he begins again with renewed energy, “oh yes, back when we were a little less informed we believed in some mystical dark matter that effected the structure of space.”

A couple students snicker.

He smiles “yes, yes it is pretty funny.” Salik sits down. “Who can tell me what happened to all that missing matter?” Hands tentatively start to go up. Salik points out a student in the back. “Yes Marok”.

Marok stands “it was destroyed.”

Salik smiles “Yes, to a degree it was destroyed, but how can we describe the process better?” Salik points out another student.

This student stands “it was devoured?”

“By what, class?”

In unison, the class answers “a vacuum energy explosion.”

Salik sits down on the edge of his desk, “yes, every one of the dark regions represents,” he pauses “an accident.” He shifts to face the projection, “Some unfortunate cultures discovered and made the mistake of trying to tap this energy source and in the process destroyed themselves and millions of light years of space consuming an untold number of other cultures.”

Sule raises her hand.

“Yes, Sule” Salik says.

“Why did so many try it, didn’t anybody warn them?”

Some of the other students laugh. Salik gives them a warning glance and looks to the clock on the wall. He turns and smiles. Putting Sule at ease, “that is a very good question.” Salik makes a gesture with his hand and the display zooms in on a dark region. “The distance and time it would take to send an artificial message makes it impossible to send a warning.”

“Now we, being a race particularly sensitive to psychic waves, can communicate over great distances with races who have this talent.” Salik says, “This communication is still sketchy at best.” He looks comforting at Sule and then to the rest of the class, “rest assured any race that we can speak with gets a warning.” Sule and several other students look a little more relieved.

Sule raises her hand again. “Yes, Sule”.

“How did we get a warning?” Sule asks innocently.

He sinks behind his desk, looking past the class, as if just lost in thought. He changes the projection to a different dark region. “We call this the Awakening Expanse.”

A more surely student raises his hand, “Professor,”

Salik is relieved to have been distracted “yes.”

The student continues egged on by his friends “Why is there a ban on this experimentation? Surely, as advanced as we are scientifically we can handle it?” His friends chuckle.

Salik shakes his head and looks disappointed at the student. “We must never be so arrogant to think that!” Salik stops and looks apologetic, “I’m sorry class.” He stands and looks around the room, “you are very young and have become numb to it, but we, the older generation haven’t.”

Salik looks at the display, “In the center of the Awaking Expanse was a small planet called Earth. The race that occupied this planet, even if they didn’t know it, was particularly talented at broadcasting their psychic waves.” Salik looks down and takes a deep breath, “you see class, we will never experiment with vacuum energy, because we can still hear their screaming in our dreams!”

The bell rings.

Credit To – Chris Keaton

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The Devil’s Perfume

January 11, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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Growing up in the south, in a pretty religious family, folklore is always around. Being Mexican to boot, these stories were always a constant reminder to be a good child. My grandfather believed in this, wholeheartedly. He loved telling us that if we didn’t behave El Cucuy was coming to get us.

El Cucuy was the boogie man. Just like La Llorona was a woman who wept to lure children to the river to drown them as she had done to her own children. How were these age appropriate stories? My grandfather insisted that he saw La Lechusa – a witch turned into a large white owl – roaming in the backyard once.

I started to keep track of when he mentioned one of these names. If my cousins and I were too loud, El Cucuy was coming. If we ran around outside, Le Lechusa would take us away.

In my grandfather’s last few years of life, he never spoke of any of these ghastly creatures anymore. Albeit, we were older and less noisy around him. We would laugh as we’d recall him yelling at us, all the while my grandfather remained silent. Before his health started to decline, he would speak in hushed whispers about things… things that scared him.

What I remember most during his last year was that he was always afraid of the dark. He spent his nights pacing the house. He would call relatives at 3 – 4 am to see what they were doing. Like clockwork, he called my parents house.

3 am phone call. 4 am phone call.

One morning in the summer he didn’t call. He didn’t call because he said he smelled something. The story he told my grandma is one that is hard to believe…

He was walking the house, making his rounds. A slight shuffle in his house slippers over the tiled floor. Ssst ssst ssst ssst. He never really picked up his feet. Ssst ssst ssst ssst. He was moving from the kitchen dining area to the front living room. Sometimes when the street light is on, you can see the street from one side of his yard to the other. Cars lining the streets in front of houses where people were sleeping. All but one person.. or so he thought.
He heard something he wasn’t sure of. Was it talking or mumbling? Maybe it was humming? No one should be awake at this hour. My grandfather shuffled to the front door. That’s when he saw… Her.

A woman, dressed in dark clothing, walking down the middle of the street.

Ever curious, my grandfather opened the door. He stood behind the screen door in silence as the wind picked up and he smelled it.

In an instant, he smelled something foul. A wall of sulfur. And just like that, it was gone, leaving only a lingering smell of roses. He didn’t say anything, didn’t move. Then She turned to him.

An old woman, small in stature, with no real facial features he could recall. A darkness covering her face although she was within the beam of the street light. She was wearing a black veil, lacey, framing her oval shaped face. She looked right at him as she tried to get near. Her feet shuffling toward the edge of his driveway.

Ssst ssst ssst ssst.

Immobile with fear, my grandfather stood at the door, the smell of roses growing stronger as She approached. Her face beginning to compose features. Eyes, dark and set deep under her brow. Small mute mouth. Sunken cheeks that seemed to tug her face even more into an oval shape. Too elongated to be real.

As She approached the driveway, She stopped. The humming was back. Was she talking? Was she singing to him? My grandfather watched as She tried to step onto his property. She struggled. Something was preventing her from walking up the driveway.

Seemingly forced to remain on the street, She stopped humming. Her face was that black hole. The eyes… were they glowing? Was the jaw that far stretched down into a snarled howl shape?

The sulfur smell was back. She, this creature, was unable to cross over onto my grandfathers property. And with a screech, She moved back into the middle of the street

Ssst ssst ssst ssst.

This creature began its humming down the street, seeming to vanish in the darkness that went beyond where the light street could reach.

This went on, every early morning, for several weeks.

My grandfather never told a soul the first few nights. Who would believe him that he saw the Devil in the street at 3 am? The sulfur rose smell lingering in his nostrils so much that he began to overly use his nasal spray. He used these menthol inhalers, one every month. After his visitor’s appearance, he was using one a week until he was placed into ICU on his deathbed.

That holiday season, my aunt saw a woman, walking the streets at night when she went to the kitchen for water. She heard a song that she didn’t understand, with the smell of roses. When she approached the door, the woman stood at the driveway and sulfur stained the air. My aunt was too afraid to get any closer to the door and went back to her bedroom.

February of 2009, my grandfather laid with monitors hooked up to him. Delirious from pain medications and his body deteriorating, he began to say he could smell the Devil’s perfume. He was adamant of that rosy sulfur smell in the air. That She went roaming the streets, singing to people to take; sings to them to walk out of their homes. He said the creature would come out of the walls at the foot of his bed in ICU to visit.

This was the first time my aunt heard of someone else speaking of the woman walking the streets, smelling the roses and sulfur. This was the first time something this far-fetched was ever uttered aloud within the family. Everything was always some folklore story. But this? This happened to two different family members.

March of 2009, my grandfather passed away. I had to fly in thinking I wasn’t able to say goodbye, but he held on for me. When I heard the stories of this Devil in disguise, I shrugged it off with a smirk.

‘Oh right, like that *really* happened? Pfft!’

‘No, it’s for real, I saw it…’ My aunt loved to exaggerate but the look in her eyes made me skeptical.

That night, I dreamt of the story, as if I was there. I could smell the roses, the sulfur. I saw this small, frail woman walking the street under the street light. When she turned to me in my dream, her face was a black void.

At my grandfather’s funeral, the priest spoke of life and how in death we’re reunited with our loved ones and are at peace. I couldn’t shake that feeling of my dream. At the cemetery, by a crooked mesquite tree off in the distance, there was a woman. Small in stature, skinny….

Where were her feet?

Was she looking at me…. How? I couldn’t see her face…. It was broad daylight and I couldn’t see her face.

I smelled roses.

The wind whipped up and it was warm… and briefly, I smelled it. I smelled the sulfur. There was nothing around but empty fields. Where was this sulfur smell coming from?

I looked around and then back at the tree, but she was gone as was the smell.

Every now and then I hear a sound, like shuffling feet… ssst ssst ssst ssst…. and I smell roses…. ssst ssst ssst ssst…. if I close my eyes, I can see that small figure in black…. ssst ssst ssst ssst…. I open my eyes before She looks at me… ssst ssst ssst ssst….

Is that the Devil’s perfume I smell….?

Credit To – My grandpa, Senor Gonzales

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The Black Fog

January 9, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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Everything, all of this chaos and madness, all began with the Black Fog.

It was just an ordinary day when the news reported a strange phenomenon, a wispy black cloud of fog, steadily making its way toward the west coast of the country from over the ocean. Nobody really cared at first, as you’d expect. It wasn’t hurting anyone, except maybe the sailors and planes flying over the ocean, but life for everyone else continued as normal. Whenever the news would talk about what we now know as “The Black Fog”, people would nod, show mild interest, say something like “Oh yeah, that’s interesting,” and be done with it.

Until the Black Fog hit the west coast.

Cities on the seaside were the first to be hit and covered with the Black Fog. The news went crazy, every station frantically pointing their cameras at the Fog to capture footage of the unique event. Personally, it always looked like a thick cloud of smoke to me instead of a city covered in fog. The news said that nobody from the “outside world” could contact anybody in the Fog. A nation-wide panic was beginning, and it grew fast. People who had previously disregarded the Black Fog now looked for ways to leave the country as the news reported that the Black Fog was still heading east as though determined to devour the entire country.

With mass hysteria of this magnitude, it can safely be assumed that plenty of doomsday prophets came forward with “explanations” about the Fog’s origin. It quickly became obvious to me that these “prophets of the apocalypse” were nothing more than crazies who walked into the news stations from off the street. Nearly every scenario imaginable was told as a reason for the Black Fog’s existence: God’s wrath on humanity, the apocalypse, aliens seeking a safe place to land their spacecraft, the Black Fog was simple fog mixed with pollutants in the air, it was a publicity stunt for a new movie, it was the government using the Fog for some purpose, Cthulhu was rising… We heard everything, but none of the theories seemed to make sense.

There was a few more days of chaotic news reports, and then the Black Fog came to my town.

I was walking home that fateful afternoon, turning a streetcorner to see my 2-story home come into view down the street. Cars breezed past me at a steady pace. Coming toward me down the sidewalk was a mother pushing a baby stroller with an enthusiastic little boy running ahead of her, cheerfully telling his mommy to hurry up. The grass was bright green in the warm summer atmosphere, and there were only a few white clouds in the sky to distract from the wild blue yonder above. A red car, the sides splattered with a thick mud, raced past me. The bright yellow orb in the sky beamed down on the world, covering us in sunlight. If there’s anything I remember from that day, it was the colors.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a dark giant stood up over the horizon and loomed over the city, blotting out the sun. Cars stopped in the middle of the road, leading other cars to crash into them. People began to scream. Some hysterical woman wailed, “It’s here!” as I looked up at the Black Fog blotting out the sky. It swept over the city quickly, shrouding me in a cave of blackness. I stumbled through the Fog, unable to even see my own two hands in front of me. The world around me looked as though it were covered in smoke, but I could breathe in it normally. I heard people screaming, the sound frightfully clear. There was the screeching of tires as cars stopped and the crunching of metal as other cars crashed into each other.

In my mind, I could picture the street as it had been before the Fog hit. My house was a few yards down across the street. If I could find my way inside, I could wait the Fog out and see if it would disappear and leave the city.

I began walking toward my house uneasily, still hearing people cry out for help. It was as though I had become blind. I took my steps with care, and tripped over a blunt object when I was halfway across the street. I climbed to my feet with my sense of direction disoriented. How close to my house was I? I just gave it my best guess and made my way forward. I had to walk around a parked car and, after tripping over the curb and falling onto the sidewalk on the other side of the road, my shoes felt grass beneath them. I wasn’t entirely sure if it was my yard.

I worked my way to the front door of the house, and sighed in relief when I realized it was mine. I hurried inside, quickly closing the door behind me. The Fog hadn’t gotten in my house, which I was thankful for. Only a little of it got in when I opened the door, but I could still see. The windows displayed nothing but black. It was as though I was standing in my house at night. A starless, moonless night.

I sat down, took a few deep breaths to calm myself, turned on the TV, and began to watch the news. If anything was being done about the Black Fog, surely they would have reported it. The news anchors were calm, but to my dismay, they had nothing to report. They said the Black Fog was “perfectly natural” and “explainable”. They said that the entire nation was being covered at an unbelievably quick rate, and the President had been evacuated for his own safety.

I changed the channel right there, cutting off a blonde newswoman mid-sentence.

On the new channel, they weren’t calling the Fog “natural”. They weren’t talking about the President. They weren’t pretending this wasn’t a national emergency. Instead, they were panicking. People who looked like normal civilians ran around the station in a frenzy while the camera’s view rested on a guy sitting behind the newsdesk, sitting in the middle of all the chaos. He stammered as he spoke, trying to maintain order somehow.

“…there were no reports of, ah, rescues from any seaside city… nor did the Black Fog show any sign of receding…” the guy was saying. As I watched, he managed to stop one of the frightened civilians and asked him to say a few things for the camera.

“H-hi…m-my name is A-Adam,” Adam began, breathing heavily, “That shit out there is crazy, man, like… like it ain’t fog. It’s something else.”

Adam wiped off his sweaty forehead and cleared his throat, “We heard rumors that you can see in the Black Fog if you have a flashlight or fire… we sent a guy out into the Fog with one of those bigass flashlights… he hasn’t came back yet…”

I remained in my living room, in complete disbelief that this was happening. I barely registered anything the news said, not that it said much. The only thing they could talk about was the Black Fog, and because nobody knew anything about it, there wasn’t much to say.

I couldn’t tell if it was day or night outside, so I tried to sleep according to the clocks in my house. I slept on the hardwood floor in the living room, too weary and afraid to climb upstairs to my bedroom. When I woke up, I immediately turned the TV on again. Inside the news station, there were sleeping people mixed with people standing off-camera who were in rapid discussion about what to do. It was as though they had forgotten the camera was on.

I decided to wait and see if they were going to give any piece of news that was worthwhile, and went into the kitchen to fix myself something to eat. Fortunately, I had made a trip to the grocery store the day before it all started. Despite this, my appetite still wavered when I looked at the food. The Black Fog didn’t feel real to me… almost like some kind of demented nightmare, but it still hurt to think about.

I returned to the living room without eating anything, and sat down on the couch and stared at the TV. After staring at the screen and listening to the people in the news station talk for an hour, I groaned. Survival was boring.

I turned my head to the living room window, and examined it from where I sat curiously. I think Adam had said something about being able to see in the Black Fog with…

I jumped off the couch and stumbled over to the hall closet. After shuffling through coats and other miscellaneous things, I found a flashlight. Clicking it on, I sighed in relief when a bright beam of light shot out, the first light I’d seen since it all started.

I pointed the flashlight toward the living room window, and froze when I saw a face outside.

There was a man standing outside the window with his thin nose barely touching the glass. His face was horrible, yet I couldn’t look away. The skin hung loosely on him, making him look like an old man. He had long silver hair on his head, a few strands of which were dangling limply over that face, but also huge bald patches. The worst part about the man was that he was smiling at me. He had a wide, toothy grin, but his eyes had black irises and white pupils. Near the bottom of the window, I could see that he was wearing a torn-up white shirt, but his smile hypnotized me. His eyes burned into mine. There was no color to the man at all, even the thin cuts on the sides of his face were an inky black. He was nearly completely unmoving, only moving the slightest bit as he breathed. The light from the flashlight didn’t seem to affect him at all.

I moved closer to the window and rapped my fist on the glass, but the Colorless Man only stared.

I turned the flashlight off, and the man disappeared in the Fog. I turned the light back on, and he was visible again. Adam was right, it was possible to see in the Black Fog with a flashlight. I was intrigued by the Colorless Man, but also very frightened. How long had he been outside my window? A shiver ran down my back when I realized that he could have been watching me sleep.

I was unnerved by his endless staring and amused smile. As much as I wanted to watch the news in the living room, I instead found excuses to stay out. I found myself looking through the same pantry in my kitchen for almost half an hour. Soon after I found myself sitting alone in a chair in my room upstairs, quietly thinking about when the Fog would lift.

But I couldn’t stay out of the living room forever, and I eventually went back. The first thing I did was flash the light at the window to see if the Colorless Man was still there. He was, and didn’t seem to have moved at all since I had first realized he was there. Unsettled, I turned off the flashlight to conserve the batteries (but also so I wouldn’t have to look at him), made myself comfortable on the couch, and turned my attention to the news where Adam was talking.

“…things in the Black Fog are everywhere,” he was saying, “Because the Fog is probably covering the whole world by now. Stay vigilant, a miracle has to happen soon…”

It seemed that I wasn’t the only one who had detected the presence of the things in the Fog. Adam delivered reports of mutilated bodies found in the streets with their eyes in their mouths and their teeth in their eyesockets. More of the news station survivors chimed in behind him with more information, and told of strange thumps outside safe shelters where people were holed up, waiting for it to end. There was no denying it, something unnatural was in the Black Fog, maybe something beyond the Colorless Man outside my window.

I decided to sleep upstairs in my bedroom that night. I shined the flashlight at the window before trudging upstairs to see if the Colorless Man had left. He was still there; only his eyes had moved to follow me. Once I had gotten upstairs, I placed the flashlight under my pillow, kneeled next to my bed and did something that I hadn’t done for a long, long time.

I prayed.

That night, I dreamed that the light had returned to the world. Families walked down sidewalks, children shouted to each other as they played. The grass was a dark green and the sky burned blue. The wind was crisp, gently caressing my cheek as it passed by. I looked around in wonder, and then noticed somebody standing behind me. I whirled around to see the Colorless Man standing there with that same grin on his face, only this time there was no glass separating us.

I woke up sweating. The first thing I saw was my bedroom window. Out of curiosity, I took the flashlight from under my pillow and pointed it at the window, my thumb flicking the switch on.

I don’t know what I was expecting to be there… I was probably thinking that the Colorless Man would somehow be outside my 2nd-floor bedroom. Something was out there, but it wasn’t him.

This time it was a woman with pale skin and long black hair. She looked younger than the Colorless Man, probably in her 20’s, but she still had the same crooked grin, the same vacant eyes, and the same unsettling stare. She was also completely drained of color as well. I immediately fell off my bed and screamed as the Colorless Woman stared on. I crawled to my feet and slammed my bedroom door closed as I hurried out into the hallway.

As soon as it had shut, I noticed another window in the hallway. I flashed the light at it, and gasped when a fat Colorless Man came into the light, grinning as though laughing at a private joke. I didn’t know what to do. Total panic seized me, causing me to flee from the unseen eyes in the Black Fog.

I shined the flashlight at every window I came across. I found another Colorless Woman in the guest room window and a thin Colorless Man looking into the upstairs bathroom before I managed to reach the stairs. I practically flew down them, and dived into the kitchen where I ducked under the table and tried to catch my breath. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the kitchen window. As much as I didn’t want to know if one of them was there, I still flashed the light at the window.

This one was the worst one yet. He resembled a wolf with a wide snout, shaggy black fur and pointed ears, and he stared at me with wide, hungry, pupilless white eyes. For a crazy moment, I thought it must have been a wolf skull or mask, but then a thick dog tongue slid out of his mouth and licked his chops as he continued to gaze at me.

There was a Colorless Person at every window in my house, I realized. I stumbled out of the kitchen to get away from the starving eyes of the Colorless Wolf, and found myself standing in the living room. I flicked the flashlight on, and pointed it at the window to see that the Colorless Man was still there, patiently waiting. As I stared, his grin widened and revealed fangs like razors in the back of his mouth. His eyes flashed red, the first color I’d seen since the Black Fog had arrived.

And then the flashlight died, leaving me alone in the dark.

As I stood there, blinking in the utter blackness that surrounded me and pressed in from all sides, something began tapping on the living room window. As if in response, the Colorless People began tapping on every window in the house. The sound was maddening, completely in unison and growing louder, more frequent as every second crept past.

And I’ve been listening to them ever since. All of them, just tapping on the windows. The sound never leaves, never stops, never pauses. Listening to that endless noise… I just know that it’s tearing my mental state in half. I don’t know how much longer I can take this.

I just heard a window break.

I hope to God it isn’t the Wolf.

Credit To – Alex Sorrow

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Wendall Lane Diaries: You Shouldn’t

January 7, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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Disclaimer: I am not a paranormal investigator. I am an author. While looking for inspiration for a book, I came across a series of stories surrounding a home in the American Pacific North West. It is an extremely un-extraordinary looking house in an extremely un-extraordinary looking residential neighborhood, but the stories that have emanated from its former residents and the people who lived in the town that it’s located in are quite extraordinary.

Through my research of the house on Wendall Lane, I have come across accounts that range from the super natural to just plain bizarre. In order to protect the privacy of the people in the town and the current inhabitants of the house on Wendall Lane, I have not only changed the name of everyone in these stories, but the name of the street as well. Wendall Lane is just an alias for the true location of these accounts.

***

Alan Palmer lived in the house on Wendell Ln. from September 2002 to July 2003. After months of trying to contact him about his time there, I finally received an e-mail agreeing to set up a meeting. Quite a few of the house’s prior residents had turned down my requests for face to face interviews so I jumped at the chance to talk to him in person once the opportunity presented itself.

Palmer, who worked as a socioeconomics professor at the University of Washington, arranged to meet me and talk over drinks at a place of his choosing in downtown Seattle. The bar was called Oliver’s Lounge and was located in the historic Mayflower Park Hotel. Upon arriving, I was surprised to see just how crowded it was for 3:00 PM on a Tuesday. There were people seated at nearly every table while food runners and waiters dressed in white servers’ jackets and black bowties hustled and bustled about the room bringing people their orders. Windows stretching from floor to ceiling allowed for an ample amount of sunlight to illuminate the space, giving it a genuinely open and inviting ambience. I spotted Palmer in the corner sitting at a small high table and sipping on a glass of scotch.

He greeted me with a hearty handshake and a bright smile after I introduced myself to him. The man was greying a little around the ears, and I could tell shortly after meeting him that he was incredibly intelligent, but aside from that he seemed to have the demeanor of a fellow 15 years his junior. Palmer was a light-hearted gentleman who loved a good joke and he insisted on telling me a few of his favorites before I turned my tape recorder on.

Once he had his fun we started the interview.

“Believe it or not, you’re not the first person who’s tried to contact me about the time I spent living on Wendell Ln. Apparently there are all kinds of “ghost enthusiasts” out there who’ve heard about the house through the various online forums these types of people tend to frequent. Nerds and losers – you know the type – they spend their time sifting through thread after thread on the Internet, pretending that they’re doing something productive with their lives. Hell, most of them are probably overweight man-children sitting in their parents’ basement and conducting their ‘research’ in between anime cartoons.”

Palmer let out a laugh, seemingly pleased with his depiction of the paranormal research community. I decided to omit the fact that I first heard about him through one of the online forums he was talking about. He took a sip of scotch and continued on.

“So naturally I ignored your e-mails thinking you were another one of those ghost geeks. It’s strange. I probably wouldn’t have agreed to meet, but I came across one of your books by complete accident. My nephew mentioned your work in passing when I was over at my brother’s house for dinner a few weeks ago. I put two and two together and realized you were the same author who had been e-mailing me so I figured why the hell not? I’m game to talk about it if you are, all though I must admit my story probably isn’t as interesting as demons or monsters or whatever the hell it is you write about. Not a whole lot happened while I was living there. In fact, the only reason I lived in the house for such a short period of time was because an old colleague of mine offered me a full professorship here at the University of Washington not long after I purchased it and the commute was just too far.

My workplace at the time had no job security, I was on the chopping block every year so there was no way I could turn down the offer. This was before the housing bust in ’07. It was a sellers’ market; banks were giving away loans like there was no tomorrow so it wasn’t difficult to turn right back around and flip the place. Hell, I even made thirty grand! Plus, I love Seattle. The weather sucks, but this city has culture!”

We made small talk for a bit. He told some stories about work, his travels to Europe, and even asked me about some of the upcoming books that I’ve been working on. I was beginning to wonder if flying all the way out to Seattle to speak to him had been a big waste of time. After all, Palmer appeared almost completely uninterested in discussing any and all aspects of the house. I directed his attention back towards the reason why we had met when I asked him to describe the most bizarre encounter he could remember having in the short time he lived on Wendell Ln.

“Haha! Now you’re starting to sound like the Internet ghost geeks! Fine, fine, let me think. Like I said, nothing really strange ever happened, that’s why I –”

He paused for a moment and looked out the window towards the street.

“There was one thing. I had almost forgotten about it – the TV incident. It was a Friday night in June, about a month before the house sold. There was nothing on. You know how crappy television programming can be on the weekends, especially in the summer time! I was scrolling through channels on my TV’s menu looking for something to turn my brain off to when the title of a show caught my eye. It was called “You Shouldn’t Watch”. I figured with a name like that, how could I not give it a go? Also, the show was on a channel I had never seen before – Channel 732. To be honest, I don’t watch much TV and when I do, I don’t usually venture out of the HD channels so I wasn’t even sure if it was covered under my cable package.

Now, I don’t know what yours looks like, but the way my cable provider’s menu was set up different colors are used to distinguish between different types of shows. You get green for sports, purple for movies, and blue for everything else. However, the menu color for this particular show was black. The text was yellow, which was also unusual since the show’s title is always written in white. Even the font was different. Don’t ask me to describe what it looked like because I really can’t recall. All I know was I had never seen letters written in that way before. I know that sounds odd, but the best description I could give you is that even though the lettering looked completely alien in appearance, my mind could somehow interpret what it said – “YOU SHOULDN’T WATCH”. Now I’m starting to sound like the Internet weirdos. Ha!”

Palmer polished off his glass and called the waitress over to order another drink.

“Anyways, from the very second I turned on the program, I knew I was watching something very strange – very strange indeed. The black and white picture on my television was of a mostly empty room. There were no visible windows or doors; the place seemed cold and uninviting – like how I’d imagine a jail cell in Bangladesh would look. Not dead center, but slightly off to the left of the frame was a man sitting at an old rusty table. He was shirtless and looked to be very malnourished. It reminded me of those old photos you see of the Jews who suffered through German concentration camps during World War 2. I remember wondering if he was a prisoner there. The frail man wore a pair of tattered slacks, but no belt or shoes. His mouth hung a gape as if his jaw was too heavy to close. There was no music or dialogue; the only noises radiating from my speakers were the sounds of his wheezy, raspy breaths. God! It sounded like he was suffering from emphysema or something. I followed his gaze down to an old rotary phone sitting on the tabletop. He just gawked at the thing like a buffoon while I stared at the screen, mesmerized by the odd scene taking place on my television.

I hit the info button, hoping to read a synopsis of what the show was about, but of course there was nothing so I just kept watching. For minutes he didn’t move. I giggled to myself for a bit – you know, the way you do when something makes you uncomfortable and your brain thinks laughing will ease the tension. The whole time I was waiting, hoping for something that resembled dialogue. Anything to prove that I was just watching some weird movie and had simply turned it on at the wrong time, but nothing ever happened. Perplexed and a little bit bored, I stood up from my couch and headed over to the kitchen to rummage through the fridge for a little late night snack. I was about halfway done making myself a sandwich when I heard the most terrible noise.”

Palmer paused briefly. At first I thought he had stopped his story because of the waitress returning from the bar with his drink, but he barely acknowledged her presence. The man was caught up in deep thought as though he had just remembered something important. When he finally began speaking again the tone of his voice had completely changed. Gone was the chipper upbeat persona I had come to know him by. Palmer was clearly distraught.

“It sounded horrible – like a dying animal. I remember an awful sensation of nausea washing over me; it was the strangest thing. There was an ominous feeling in the air too – death, ruin, calamity all hanging over my head. Once I realized that the noise was coming from the television, I put down my sandwich and hurried back towards the living room. The scene on the TV was essentially the same except now the sickly looking man had turned his head up towards the ceiling and was howling and groaning in the most unpleasant of ways. The longer I watched the more it made me feel like I was going to retch.

The whole thing was utterly abhorrent. The man would moan for 30 maybe 40 seconds at a time before stopping suddenly, then he would take another deep wheezy breath and the terrible sounds would begin anew. I cringed as I took it all in. My visual and auditory senses were being assaulted by the most disagreeable of stimuli and I was still fighting off the urge to vomit all over my living room carpet. Just when I thought things couldn’t get worse, the man still groaning mind you, turned his head in the direction of the screen and stared straight into the camera. The thing is, I was certain he was looking directly at me. That’s what it felt like; it was almost as if we were in the same room. I probably should have turned off the show, but after minutes of nothing something was finally going on and I felt compelled to keep watching even though I was suffering immensely.

I stared into the glazed over eyes of the sickly looking man until he turned his attention down towards the phone sitting on the table –”

Palmer hunched over in his seat and removed his glasses. He seemed visibly shaken. The 42-year-old econ professor clasped the bridge of his nose between his thumb and index finger and let out a deep sigh. Beads of sweat had begun to form on his forehead.

“I’m sorry, forgive me. I haven’t thought about this night in a long time. I suppose it’s possible that my mind pushed this episode to the back of my consciousness and I forgot all about it – kind of a defense mechanism type of thing. I’ve read about case studies where army veterans who witnessed horrific events develop amnesia about their time in the military. It seems as though I may be going through something similar, except as I sit here and talk to you, everything begins to come back to me.”

I asked him if he wanted to continue. He agreed and then resumed his story.

“His hand quaked violently as he lifted the phone to his ear. His arms were rail thin and it looked as though he was struggling mightily to hold it in place. With his other hand, he clumsily started spinning the rotary dial. That’s when my cell phone started ringing.

A chill ran down my spine, my nausea got even worse, that ominous feeling in the air had transformed into full on horror. I prayed with every fiber in my being that it was a coincidence as I looked at my phone’s caller ID. You have no idea how bad I wanted the number to be one that I recognized. I didn’t recognize it of course. Hell, it wasn’t even a number. It was something else entirely. In that same strange, alien text from the TV’s menu were the words ‘YOU SHOULDN’T LISTEN’ written where the caller’s number should have been.

That was enough for me. I hung up the phone and reached for the remote on the coffee table. I must have pressed the channel button a dozen times, but the picture never changed. I tried the power button and still nothing happened. The man began to dial the phone again. Once more my cell started to ring.”

Palmer had gone pale. He looked completely different from when I first met him – the polar opposite of the smiling man who shook my hand earlier.

“I tried to turn off the TV manually, I even unplugged it from the wall, but by this time I knew it would do nothing. The sickly, pale man continued to stare at me – his horrible, empty gaze felt as though it was tearing me to pieces. Stomach bile slowly started to crawl its way up my esophagus. I don’t know why I answered the phone, I couldn’t help myself; maybe I thought if I did then it would all just end. My finger trembled as I pressed the answer button. I slowly lifted the phone to my face.

I didn’t even need to say, ‘hello’. He just began speaking as if he was watching me answer the phone through the television screen – and perhaps he was.”

Tears began to well up in Palmer’s eyes. I tried to tell him that he didn’t need to go into further detail if he was uncomfortable, but he kept talking as though he never even heard me. By that point, he would have finished his story even if there was no one sitting across the table from him.

“He spoke to me in a terrible voice – it sounded like he was gargling shards of glass. His lips moved on the screen, but I could hear him clearly over the phone… he said…he said, “You shouldn’t tell”. Then in one horrible, inhumanly quick motion, he leapt out of the frame as the screen went to black.

Jesus Christ, he said, ‘You shouldn’t tell.’ Did I just tell? Vincent please, does that mean I just told!?”

Palmer fell silent and stared awkwardly into his glass for a moment. Then he apologized and excused himself from the table. It was the last I saw of him that night. He sent me a text message 15 minutes later explaining that he had to go home and instructing me to charge the bill to his tab. I tried to contact him once I got back to California, but he never answered my calls or e-mails. A few weeks later I found out what happened to him after performing a simple Google search of his name.

Twelve days after Alan Palmer and I met to talk about the house on Wendall Ln, he was found dead in his Seattle home. There was no sign of a struggle or forced entry, however, due to the horrific nature of his death, Seattle PD does believe that he was murdered.

Palmer’s body was discovered in front of the television on his living room couch missing ears, eyes, and tongue.

Credit To – Vincent VenaCava

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Frosted Mini Fears 6

January 6, 2015 at 12:00 AM
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This is a small collection of video pastas. If the embedded videos do not display for you, please click the links – they go to the individual video pages on YouTube.


The Gate


Modal Realism


“The Visitor” As told by Tito Boi


The Last Man Alive


Doorbell Ditch

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White Christmas

December 27, 2014 at 12:00 AM
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“Fuck, it’s cold.” You would think I’d be used to it by now.

Pulling my scarf a little tighter, I take one last drag off my cigarette and flick it to the ground, crushing it underfoot. I watch as it flares for a moment — a fleeting fight for life — before quickly fading to black on the frozen ground. Last one. I had checked all the nearby shops, and there were none left. There wasn’t much of anything left after the looting. Goodbye, old friend.

I give the nearby landscape a quick once over, surveying it as I do every time I come out for a smoke. Snow. Everywhere, snow. With a great sigh, I pull the glove off my right hand, fumbling in my pocket for the photo. Their photo. It’s all I have left. My girls. I stare at it until my hand begins to burn, then gently return it to my pocket, shoving my glove back on roughly. God damn snow.

Turning around to face the building, I reach for the cold metal handle, pausing a moment to read the sign on the door.

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE
KEY WEST, FLORIDA

This used to be a forecast center. We’d sit around predicting the weather for locals and tourists alike — well, mostly the tourists. The locals could always pretty much predict the weather themselves. Warm. Sunny. Sometimes rainy, with the occasional hurricane to keep things lively. After the snow came, though, there didn’t seem to be much point in going through the motions of forecasting. We did it for a while. We thought the snow was temporary. We thought it was some weather anomaly that would evolve after a few days. Maybe a week at the outside. We were wrong. It’s only ever snow. Snow, and a balmy 28°F.

Turning the handle, I give the door a yank, and it opens with a groan. Everything is frozen these days, even the doors. The door is set in a wall of square glass panes, which have been covered with plastic and blankets, in an attempt to better insulate the building. I walk quickly through the chilly lobby. The coldest part of the building, it’s become something of a storage room. There are piles of things in disarray on either side of me — the only clear path is to the door. At the far end of the room is another door, better insulated than the first. Passing through, I close it quickly behind me. I hang my coat, scarf, gloves and hat on hooks opposite the door, and head down the hallway. Turning the corner, I enter the main part of the building. We call it the bullpen.

The building wasn’t always like this. It used to be individual offices and other rooms, but when the snow came, it changed everything — for everyone. Now, instead of sitting in our offices, forecasting the weather, we all sit at desks in one big space — for shared warmth, as much as anything else — and try to figure out what the hell happened.

Bill looks up as I enter the room, greeting me with a nod.

“How is it out there, John?” he asks.

“Oh, you know,” I reply. “Cold.”

I head for my desk — back center of the pen — and plop down in my chair, hoping my short break will have given me fresh eyes, but after six months of this, there is little chance of that. I lean back in my chair, close my eyes and rub my temples, internally reviewing what I know.

The presently accepted account of events goes like this. A little more than six months ago, on Christmas Day, by sheer chance — some complete and utter fluke — at precisely 08:17, GMT -05:00, everywhere around the world, you could hear the opening strains of Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas.” All at once, everywhere in the world, every radio station, every internet music service, every CD player played that song. It didn’t matter if those particular people or cultures celebrated Christmas. It happened everywhere, without discrimination. Even people who hadn’t been listening to music swear their radios switched on. Crosby sang about dreaming of a white Christmas, and that’s what we did. Everyone, everywhere around the world, all at once, fell instantly asleep, and we all dreamed of a magical, snow covered world. By all accounts, we were only out for maybe three minutes, and, when we woke, it was snowing. Everywhere. All at once.

It started slowly. Beautiful, fluffy snowflakes fell like confectioners sugar from the sky, and soon everything was covered in a blanket of white. No one worried until the next day. Even in tropical places like this, on Christmas Day, the Christmas snow seemed like a Christmas miracle. In the harsh light of December 26th, though, it was just snow. And it was cold.

Now early July, it’s more than that. The world’s infrastructure has begun to collapse. For a while, the northernmost regions of the world fared well easily, but now they find themselves faltering as their goods and services from southern suppliers dry up. The closer you get to the equator, the more prevalent the death. We just weren’t prepared for anything like this. Give us a couple days of snow, and we’ll manage. But this. This is something else entirely, and people just couldn’t stay warm. Most equatorial survivors have set off on treks to naturally colder climates, in hope of salvation, but it’s not an easy journey, and many of them won’t make it. Even if they do, at this point, there’s no telling how much longer those places can hold out. Current models project a year at most.

Sitting up, I open my eyes and look around the room. There are three of us now, and nine empty desks. Those desks used to belong to people, but they all either headed north with their families, in search of hope, or perished in the cold. Or both. Bill and Marcus are old bachelors, and don’t have family to lose or protect. Sometimes, in moments of weakness, I envy them that. But not really. Most days, those memories are all that keep me going. I just want answers. Shaking my head, I try to dislodge the thoughts of my family. Must focus.

Marcus comes into the room and looks at me expectantly. That look means he’s been out to clean off the radar and get the generator going.

“Alright, guys.” I address the room. “Fire it up.”

Being so far south, we lost power early on. Luckily, Bill is an avid survivalist, and had a generator and a huge stockpile of gas on hand, not to mention food, and other supplies and equipment. He was the first one to leave home and set up shop here. He’s the reason we have heat. He’s the reason we’re still alive.

We do this once a week. There has never been anything. It’s only ever snow. I let the ritual continue, because it gives them hope. But it’s only ever snow.

“John.” Bill’s gruff voice penetrates my thoughts. “There’s something.”

I stand bolt upright. In six months, there has never been anything. It can’t be.

Thumbing the photo in my pocket, I quickly cross the bullpen and stand at Bill’s side. He points to an island northwest of us.

“Oh, my God.” The precipitation over Wisteria Island is gone. There is a break in the snow, but it doesn’t seem to be spreading. It’s like there’s a Wisteria Island-shaped hole on the screen.

“I’m going over there.” I run to the door and start to layer on my outdoor clothes. Bill and Marcus are close behind.

“John! Be reasonable. You don’t know what’s happening out there. We should continue to observe the event from here,” Bill pleads with me.

“You should continue to observe the event from here. But I am going out there.”

“John, there’s no need to risk your life for this. If we just use a little more caution, we can figure it out safely,” Marcus reasons.

“There’s no time, Marcus. Thank you both for your concern, but if the weather has changed somewhere, I need to know why. If we figure that out, maybe we can save some lives.” I finger the photo in my pocket again. I will not be swayed from this. I couldn’t save my family, but there’s a chance now that I can save others, and I won’t ignore that just to keep myself safe.

“Please understand. I have to do this.”

Marcus nods.

“Alright,” Bill sighs. “We’ll stay here and keep the radar going. Take these with you.” He hands me an assortment of gear, which I shove into my pockets.

“Please try to be safe,” Marcus adds.

I say my goodbyes and trudge out into the snow, heading toward the bight. Normally a twenty minute walk, in this weather, it takes much longer, and I have ample time to survey the carnage. I think the three of us are the only people left alive on the island. The continued snow has destroyed most buildings, and the continued cold has killed those who didn’t flee north. Bodies pepper the streets.

There is a marina at the end of the island. Like everything else, it’s in shambles. Some of the boats have receded into the water under the weight of the snow. Others have been used as vessels of attempted escape. As I approach the marina’s small office building, I see that the windows are broken, and the door stands ajar. I’m not the first to come in search of a boat. I grab a handful of the keys that remain in the office. I use the tag on each key to check the associated boat. Number 17, gone. Number 24, gone. Number 8, sunk. Number 14, gone. Number 31, maybe.

Number 31 is covered enough that it’s not completely full of snow. I clear out enough snow to climb in, prime the fuel line, shove the key in place and give it a turn. The key doesn’t budge. Damn.

I continue through the keys until I find another promising boat. Number 15. This time the key turns, but it won’t start.

Last key. Last boat. Lucky number 3. It’s full of snow, but still properly afloat. I dig out a hole near the controls and hop in. Key turns. I let the engine power up, and, heavy on the choke, I try the ignition. Nothing. I’m hopeful, though. Number three. My girls. This is the one. I try again, and the boat roars to life. Deeply relieved, I pull her gently out of the marina.

Even at my slow pace, it doesn’t take long to cross through the 600 yards of saltwater slush to the island. I beach the boat and climb out onto the shore. It is utterly bizarre. It’s like spring has come to the island. The sky is clear, and the snow is melting — but everywhere else, the snow remains. I can stick my hand out off the side of the island and catch snow. I’ve never seen anything like it.

I walk the perimeter of the island. It’s not a big island by any stretch, so it’s a quick walk. Aside from the weather, nothing seems out of place. I stare out at the water for a while, looking towards Key West. Snow. I turn around to face the central part of this small island. The snow is melting, glistening in the sunlight and sliding off the Australian pines. Christmas Tree Island, we call it.

A particularly shiny reflection catches my eye. In the sunshine, it winks at me brightly, from the very center of the island. I rush inward to investigate, navigating the thick pines as quickly as I can. I reach the middle of the island to find a metallic object sticking out of the melting snow. It’s a circle, like a wheel of sorts. I begin moving the snow away with my gloved hands. Bit by bit, the object reveals itself. Raised platform. Bigger round object beneath the wheel. Writing: RECONSTITUTION. Latches. Hinges.

It’s a door. More precisely, it’s a hatch. What the hell? I’ve been to this island so many times. This has never been here before.

I turn the wheel, and it moves easily. Pulling on it, I try opening the hatch, but it’s stuck. The seal must be frozen still. I pull with all my strength, to no avail. I give it a kick, and then sit on the platform to catch my breath. After a minute, I’m back on my feet, pulling again. With a great pop, the hatch finally gives, throwing me backwards onto the ground. I scramble to examine the now open hatch. There is a ladder leading down into the darkness. I can’t tell how far down the ladder reaches, or what I might find once I’m down there.

Fumbling with the photo in my pocket, I gather up my courage. I’ve come this far. I climb over the side of the hatch and onto the ladder, beginning my descent. As the surface light fades, I am enveloped in darkness. It’s unnerving, but I keep moving. The descent feels neverending. Finally, I begin to see light below me. At the end of the ladder, I find myself at one end of a small hallway. The first thing I notice is the warmth. It’s warm here. There is heat. I peel off my outdoor clothes, which are, by now, nearly soaked through, and leave them in a pile by the ladder.

The well lit hallway is not very long. I follow it around a corner, where it exits into a large, bright room. The room is full of machines with blinking lights, beeping incessantly. There is an older man moving frantically about the room, fidgeting first with one machine, then another, then another, and so forth, clucking unhappily to himself. Lines are etched deeply into his face. His spray of unruly white hair makes him look like a mad scientist.

What the hell?

He is so preoccupied with his machines, he doesn’t see me. I watch him, mouth agape. I have no idea what’s happening here.

“Warning! Perimeter breach! Warning! Intruder alert!” A machine near the man responds to my presence.

“Shut up, you,” the man says, in a thick Scottish accent, banging on the machine in an attempt to silence the alarm. “I told you before, there’s no —”

He looks up then, noticing me for the first time. His eyes grow wide. Jumping to his feet, he crosses the room and addresses me angrily.

“Who are you? How did you get down here? You can’t be here!”

“Who am I?” I respond. “Who are you? What the hell is this place?”

“You first! How did you find me?” he asks accusingly.

“There is a sizable hatch in the middle of this tiny island. It wasn’t rocket science.”

“Oh, damn. The cloaking device must be on the blink, too.”

“The —? Cloaking —?”

He dismisses my confusion with a wave of his hand.

“Cloaking device. Yes.”

“Which is why I’ve never seen the hatch before today.”

“Yes.”

“Who are you? What the hell is this place?”

I repeat my original questions, and he considers me for a moment. Then he takes a deep breath, calming visibly.

“Okay. It won’t matter soon enough anyway. My name is Michael. And this is The Reconstitution.” He returns to his work.

“Reconstitution? What the hell does that even mean?”

“To reconstitute something is to return it to it’s origina—”

“No! I know what reconstitute means. What the hell is The Reconstitution?”

“Ah, yes. The Reconstitution is an automated global population management system. We’ve been around for ages, constantly evolving with available technologies. We’ve even invented a few ourselves. Our current system is really top notch. You should have seen some of our earlier implementations. They were just crude.”

“Automated global population management system? In precisely what way do you manage the population?”

“We protect the population from destroying itself.”

“You — protect —?”

“Indeed, yes. We monitor the planet’s population for signs of impending self-destruction. You don’t seem to mean to destroy each other, or the planet, generally, but that’s the way it always trends. World leaders observed this early on, and The Reconstitution was developed cooperatively among them. As I said, our early methods were — well, not what our current methods are, but we’ve always gotten the job done.”

“I’m sorry, I still don’t understand. What job is that?”

“Ah, I apologize if I’ve not been clear. We monitor the population for signs of self-destruction — we have a specific, refined criteria — and when we observe all the signs, we reset you.”

“You — reset —?”

“Indeed, yes. We reset you back to a point where you may choose a different trajectory. Don’t worry, you don’t even know. We reset you, and the world continues on. No harm done.”

“No harm —? What do you call what’s happening out there? People are dead. My family. People are dead.”

“Ah, yes. Well, it would seem our program had a bit of a hiccup.”

“A—?” I am speechless. He continues on.

“Yes, you see, when the program is functioning properly, it gives a warning signal that reconstitution is about to commence. It is programmed to choose something culturally relevant and comforting to the population. You’ll remember hearing ‘White Christmas’? Yes. Well, normally there is the warning signal, and you all fall asleep. The program resets you, you wake up, and you’re happier, friendlier, and none the wiser. The world continues on. No harm done.”

“Wha—?”

“Yes,” he continues, “This time, the program glitched. It happens from time to time, but quite infrequently. You heard the warning signal, and you all fell asleep, but the reconstitution failed, and the program became stuck. I remain down here at all times, preserved in a sleep chamber, and the program is set to wake me if it cannot correct itself after a period of six months. So, here I am!” He sounds almost gleeful.

“It —? You —?” I can barely process the things Michael is telling me. Fingering the photo in my pocket, I think of my girls. Given everything unbelievable that has happened in recent days, what makes this any different? I let it all sink in.

“What about the snow?” I ask him finally.

“Nanobots.”

“Nanobots?”

“Indeed, yes. Nanobots are our currently accepted method of reconstitution. During the process, the nanobots materialize as required, and disappear again quite quickly. While our reconstitution bots are cold and white, they’re not generally present in the quantities required to resemble snow. However, because the program glitched during their distribution process, they simply kept accumulating. Ergo — snow.”

“But I’ve seen it! It is snow. I saw it melting above us maybe an hour ago now.”

“Not melting. Retreating. I’ve been working on repairing the program, using the island as a small scale testing site for development purposes.”

This guy is mad. Utterly and completely mad. Still, it was a more plausible theory than anything I — or anyone else — had been able to come up with in the six months since the snow came.

“Let’s just say everything you’ve told me is true. How can you do this? You can’t control people like this. It’s not up to you to decide the fate of people’s lives.”

“Actually, you’re correct. It’s not up to me. It’s up to the program, and the specific criteria we’ve developed and refined over centuries.”

“So, you’re saying it’s up to a machine. A machine controls the fate of every person on this planet.”

“Indeed, yes.”

“No. No! Stop what you’re doing. I can’t let you do this.” I pull a flare gun out of my pocket and aim it at him. It’s the only thing I have that’s of any use in this situation.

Michael looks confused and alarmed.

“I’m not sure you understand. Once I fix this, and complete the reconstitution successfully, everything will be like it was before the glitch. Everyone will be restored. Your family will be restored. And they’ll have no memory of this.”

I falter. My family. My girls. I could have them back, and it would be like none of this ever happened. God, I want that so badly. I lower my gun, and think of my wife. She would hate this. She was so beautiful. She had such a good heart. This is wrong, and I know it, and she would know it. If it were her standing here, she wouldn’t even hesitate. No. I raise my gun again.

“No. This ends here. Step away from the machines.”

“I’m sorry,” Michael says. “That’s not going to happen.”

Before I can react, I see him push a button on a console, and the room begins to spin. I fall to my knees, then keel over. Everything goes black.

***

I feel my consciousness returning. Instinctively, I bring my hand to my head. It hurts so — Oh. No, it’s fine. I must have been dreaming.

I feel another hand on my head, and I open my eyes in alarm.

“Are you alright, love? You seem to have had a bit of a start,” Stella says, kissing my forehead.

“I — I’m fine.” As far as I can tell, anyway.

The bedroom door swings open suddenly, and the girls come bounding in and on to the bed.

“It’s Christmas! It’s Christmas!” they shout, jumping up and down on us.

Stella laughs happily.

“Merry Christmas, my love!” she says, kissing me softly.

What is wrong with me? I shake my head, trying to clear away the lingering feeling of unease left by the dream I can’t remember. It’s Christmas.

“Merry Christmas, my girls!” I exclaim, hugging them all. “Shall we go see what Santa’s left for us?” As we make our way down the stairs, I hear the opening strains of Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” float in through our open windows.

Credit To – Ashe Abbott

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